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ARGENTINA | 11-08-2023 15:24

PASO primaries: 10 keys for Sunday's election

Disenchantment with politics is entirely relevant heading into Sunday's uncertain PASO primaries. Two coalitions are at risk – here's what to look out for when the results start coming in.

At this time of division, there is undoubtedly consensus about one thing: people no longer trust politics as an instrument for common good. It is the important feature of these uncertain PASO primary elections. 

Those who are elected simply end up benefitting from the distrust awakened by their predecessors. You might say everyone is being suspected. Juan Domingo Perón already anticipated this when he said: “They don’t vote because we’re good, but because everyone else is worse."

Firstly, the robustness of two coalition dominance is at stake. People are right to claim that the hegemonic parity between the two major coalitions (Peronism-anti-Peronism), even with the economic stagnation of the last decade, has provided the system with stability and prevented a tendency towards political fragmentation or other deviations we have seen, not only in this region. 

Does this explain the validity of a democracy that has not met the main demands of Argentine society? Never before has the gap between representatives and the people been so wide. If both coalitions have disappointed while at the helm, does this setting favour the emergence of the third option in the form of libertarian hopeful Javier Milei?

The PASOs arouse more interest than a general election. Much is defined in primaries. This could be the election generating the most expectation of the last 20 years.

 

What to look out for in Sunday’s results

1) Competition between coalitions

This may indicate if there will be any rotation. Juntos por el Cambio won the election in 2021 with 42.7 percent throughout the country, slightly more than two points compared to the 2019 presidential election, when it obtained 40 percent in the general election (32 percent in the PASO primaries). The united Peronist front fell to 34.5 percent in 2021, as against the 48 percent that won them the presidential election in 2019. The background, this year's gubernatorial elections shows a strengthened opposition: Peronism dropped in number of votes won and lost the provinces San Juan, San Luis and Chubut, as well as the PASO primaries in Santa Fe and Chaco. It is forecast to gain control in six to eight provinces (if it loses the provinces of Buenos Aires and Entre Ríos).  

2) The most voted for

Economy Minister Sergio Massa has tied his future to being the most voted for candidate. It was the core goal of the “unity candidacy” of the Frente de Todos alliance, so as to consolidate a competitive front in the October general election from there. However, it cannot be ruled out that Massa may lose a significant portion of votes to social leader Juan Grabois. Massa was not joined by former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on the campaign trail, and there are sectors of the ruling party that do not feel represented by his candidacy. What is more, the economic scenario has become complicated in the last few weeks with a hike in parallel exchange rates and accelerating inflation, due to distrust and scant reserves.

3) Juntos por el Cambio primary

PRO leader Patricia Bullrich vs Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta. It is the most important duel in the primaries, more is at stake. Bullrich’s triumph might preserve the waning leadership of former president Mauricio Macri in Juntos por el Cambio and would leave Rodríguez Larreta out of the race. His victory, on the other hand, could bring a new balance to the opposition space with new leadership.

4) Milei’s performance

This is the disruptive factor. Javier Milei is the great mystery of the election. Months ago his candidacy seemed to be on an equal footing with the two main coalitions, creating a scenario of three-thirds. The latest numbers showed him further down, as a third option in a scenario, similar to the 2015 election. They key will be whether he shows he could be in a position to reach a run-off.

5) Buenos Aires Province

The main stronghold of the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner-supporting Peronism. Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof awakens more expectations than Massa among diehard Kirchnerite voters, but there are doubts as to whether his candidacy will create a knock-on effect for the presidential ticket. Keeping that territory is key to the survival of Kirchnerism as a whole. Peronist primaries in Hurlingham, Tigre and La Matanza will be decisive.

6) Opposition in the City

Mauricio Macri is gambling his leadership of his party on the fate of his cousin, former Vicente López mayor Jorge Macri. A victory for Radical Senator Martín Lousteau in the primary would end PRO's 16-year hegemony in the City, define the former president as a thing of the past and reconfigure the leadership of the opposition alliance. The concurrent vote is another thing: the mayor will be elected by electronic vote and national posts will be chosen by traditional ballot.

7) Turnout

Over five million people are estimated not to have cast a ballot during early provincial voting. This could be a channel for disenchantment with politics, as well as a high percentage of blank votes. This might favour more militant voting options, such as Bullrich and Milei.   

8) Congress election

The key setting for reformist options. Everything highlights the next government’s need to make alliances with alternative opposition sectors if it intends to go through with widespread reform. Political agreement and an expansion of the nexst government's support base is at the heart of Rodríguez Larreta’s platform. And that is what Bullrich is resisting.

9) Economic impact

Analysts believe that the economy determines two-thirds of the motivation for any citizen to vote in any election. If that is the case, numbers do not favour the ruling party. Inflation has accelerated over the past few weeks with the rise of financial and parallel 'blue' exchange rates, and a jump in the price utilities will make its presence felt in July and August. Poverty affected 41 percent of the population in the first half of the year, according to INDEC national statistic bureau estimates. The balance may not only be the responsibility of the ruling party: economic stagnation has been a thing for nearly 10 years, with rotating coalitions in power. A defeat for the ruling party might accelerate the pace of devaluation (and austerity), thus reducing their competitiveness in October. Such a move would benefit Argentine bonds and shares.

10) Crime and security

The death of 11-year-old Morena Rodríguez in Lanús has pushed crime to the fore. An unexpected event in the final stretch of the campaign, one which once again places insecurity at the centre of political debate. Will the death prompt voters to favour extreme options over moderate choices? Its impact during these final hours before voting is unpredictable.

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Walter Curia

Walter Curia

Director de Perfil

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